There’s nothing quite like a sudden Google algorithm update to leave you feeling equally confused and concerned.
It seems as though search engines like Google wait for you to get all of your ducks in a row and then unleash an update that makes your efforts instantly obsolete.
Plus, there’s still some secrecy behind how Google evaluates websites and determines which sites appear — and how they appear — on the search engine results page (SERP) for different queries.
The good news is that there are several search engine optimization (SEO) tools out there — some free, some paid — that can help you view your website the way search engines like Google see it.
This way, you can improve your ranking and relevance for your target keywords.
Types of SEO Tools
SEO is a complex beast with a lot of moving parts. So, it’s not surprising that there is a huge range of tools available to help you research, implement, and manage your website’s SEO performance.
Some SEO tools help you perform very specific tasks. Others combine one or two areas of SEO together in multiple features. Finally, there are platforms designed to be a one-stop-shop solution for all your SEO activities.
Broadly speaking, SEO tools fall into one or more of the following categories.
These tools help you identify where your website is falling short from a technical perspective. They analyze site elements such as structure, metadata, page speed, and more so you can meet best practice guidelines from Google.
From monthly search volume to related keywords, these tools help you identify which keywords you should target on your site. Typically, you start by entering some keyword ideas before the tools return lists of keywords, their search volume, and competition level.
Most of these tools analyze the existing on-page performance of your content and provide recommendations on how to improve it for SEO. This will include the type and length of content required, comparisons to your competitors, topic ideas, and more.
Backlinks are critical to sustainable SEO performance, and these tools give you clarity on your existing backlink profile. They also often provide ideas for websites you should seek backlinks from and how you measure up against competitors.
Whether you want to keep track of progress at a high level or show off your SEO results to others in the organization, SEO reporting tools help you compile website data into actionable insights.
They’ll usually enable you to build custom reports and track critical SEO metrics at both a high and granular level.
Many tools and platforms incorporate multiple SEO tool types and features to provide everything in one place. With all-in-one platforms, you can use one tool to plan and manage your entire SEO strategy.
For universal SEO tips you can use today to grow your business, check out our video guide below.
Best SEO Tools
- HubSpot Website Grader
- Google Search Console
- Google Analytics
- UpCity Free SEO Report Card
- Internet Marketing Ninjas
- Bing Webmaster
- Google Trends
- Check My Links
- HubSpot SEO Marketing Software
- Moz Pro
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider
- Keyword Hero
- SE Ranking
Free SEO Tools
These tools are free to use, but you might find a paid option that has more features. We’ve shared some of the best features in each tool as well as how you can get the most out of them for your SEO strategy.
The goal of marketing is to generate traffic and qualified leads via the company’s website. That’s why, as marketers, we need to understand exactly what we can do to improve the SEO of that website.
Hubspot’s Website Grader is a technical SEO tool that highlights how you can improve the speed, structure, security, and mobile performance of your site.
With HubSpot’s Website Grader, simply enter the URL of your website to automatically receive a report card with actionable insights about your SEO efforts.
- Learn about your website’s performance in seconds, and receive clear, actionable feedback on how you can fix them.
- Receive how-to education on how you can improve your website.
- Gain access to a five-lesson HubSpot Academy course on Website Optimization so you can understand how to improve upon your website’s specific problem areas.
- Discover how to optimize your website for mobile.
- Learn how you can implement website security best practices.
- Personalize your website’s UX to create a delightful experience for users.
Google Search Console is primarily a technical SEO tool that helps you identify whether Google is finding and indexing your website pages. If it’s not, you’ll get guidance on why pages are not indexed and how to fix it.
Google Search Console also has many tools available to help you appear in the SERPs for the search terms and phrases your target audience is looking for.
Google Search Console monitors, debugs, and optimizes your website. Plus, you don’t need to know how to code to benefit from this tool.
- Learn about the keywords your web pages are currently ranking for.
- Identify any crawl errors that exist on your website.
- Understand how mobile-friendly your website is and discover opportunities to improve the mobile experience for your users.
- See how many of your web pages are in Google’s Index (if they aren’t in Google’s index, you can use the tool’s URL Inspection Tool to submit a page for indexing).
- See the website-related metrics that matter most to you, like clicks, impressions, average click-through rate (CTR), and average position.
Google Analytics is a website reporting tool that you can use to gain insights into your SEO performance. It’s a great option for anyone looking for a free SEO reporting tool.
Although Google Analytics has a paid version, the free version of the product can be paired with Google Search Console to provide a full picture of your SEO.
In doing so, all of your website’s SEO data will be centrally located and compiled. You can use queries to identify areas for improvement with the keywords and phrases that you want your website and web pages to rank for.
The free SEO Report Card by UpCity lets you analyze your website to determine how it stacks up against the competition.
It’s a tool that combines technical, on-page, and off-page analysis to give you a reporting snapshot of your existing performance. By comparing your site to a competitor, you can also clearly see where improvements to your SEO strategy are needed.
- Rank analysis. See a snapshot of where your website ranks on the most popular search engines.
- Link building. Get a detailed account of the number of websites that link back to your site.
- On-site analysis. See how successful you were in incorporating your main keyword throughout your site.
- Gather information about your site’s load time and accessibility.
See how many of your site pages have been indexed.
Internet Marketing Ninjas is an SEO-focused marketing agency. Their team has built out an extensive list of free tools you can use to compare your website against the competition, optimize web pages for certain keywords, and increase organic traffic to your website.
When combined, these tools provide keyword research, technical, and on-page capabilities to help you plug the gaps in your SEO performance.
- Identify broken links and redirects, and use the site crawl feature to generate an XML sitemap of your website.
- See all of your page links (external, internal, etc.) on your web pages to review what’s working well and what’s broken or needs an update.
- Use an on-page optimization tool to evaluate your web page content, meta information, and internal links.
- Compare the SEO of your web pages versus a competitor’s web pages.
- Analyze page-load time and how long each component of a web page takes to fully display.
From an SEO perspective, Bing Webmaster is a keyword research, technical, and off-page SEO tool. Plus, it’s completely free.
Microsoft Bing Webmaster gives you access to many tools that offer insight into your website such as reporting, diagnostic, and SEO tools.
The SEO tools that you can use for free have the power to help you analyze your website, manage backlinks, and review keywords to ensure your site is well-optimized for organic search.
- See backlink profiles. Learn about your backlink profile to understand referring pages, domains, and anchor links.
- Perform keyword research. Determine which keywords and phrases your audience is searching for as well as the search volumes of those keywords and phrases.
- Use the site scanning feature. Crawl your website and identify technical SEO errors.
Get SEO reports. Review any errors that are on your website and individual site pages.
Google Trends is a keyword research tool that helps you identify keywords and topics around which you can shape your website content.
Traditional SEO tools are great for conducting research and audits when your business is already established.
But what if you’re starting a new business venture and want to know what popular industries, topics, and ideas people are exploring?
Google Trends is a great place to explore untapped potential that can yield a large keyword landscape for your website.
However, Google Trends isn’t where you’ll get granular data. This tool performs best when you use it as a compass to set a direction for your SEO strategy and then pair those insights with a more robust software like HubSpot’s SEO Marketing Tool.
- Look for trends in specific countries or regions of the world.
- Find popular people and long-tail keywords related to them.
- Compare and contrast trends over time.
Seolyzer is a technical SEO tool that helps you determine how search engines like Google view your website.
It includes free site crawling, log analysis, and reports so you can get ahead of potential crawling and indexing issues.
Seolyzer pulls information that crawling bots leave in your server’s log files while browsing your site to identify and create your SEO KPIs. The tool also identifies error codes, redirects, and page speed performance.
- Monitor SEO issues. Identify poor response time, error messages, and crawl volume so you can resolve them before serious damage is done.
- Manage your unique KPIs. Analyze page performance, crawl volume, HTTP status codes, active and new pages, and desktop versus mobile responsiveness.
- Segment web pages. Determine what your most crawled pages are.
- Compare web pages. See what Google deems as most important to the pages that are crucial to your business’s bottom line.
- Understand the impact of your SEO efforts on a page-by-page basis or by the category of the page.
SEOquake is a Google Chrome extension that automatically checks a web page’s SEO parameters quickly and for free.
This includes on-page SEO audits, internal and external link reviews, real-time URL and domain comparison, and data file export.
The number of features makes it the closest thing to the only free, all-in-one SEO tool available.
- Get a detailed description of how all of your links are doing — including URLs, anchor text, and other link types — with the tools Link Examiner feature.
- Adjust the SEOquake reports you receive to display only the parameters and metrics that you care about.
- Identify any SEO-related issues that would be findable by search engines.
- Export the results of your SEO analysis into an adjustable and shareable report.
Seobility is a free SEO-checker tool. With it, you can test your website’s level of compliance with today’s SEO guidelines. By simply entering your URL, your site will be analyzed and you’ll receive tips on how you can better optimize your website.
Under the free plan, you can use Seobility as a keyword research, technical, on-page, and off-page SEO tool. However, your usage will be limited in terms of the number of keywords, competitors, and pages you can track.
In addition to a detailed SEO audit of your website, you’ll gain access to 1,000 subpage audits, email reporting and alerts, and keyword monitoring.
- Find technical errors. Resolve on-page SEO issues quickly to recover lost traffic and prevent future traffic dips.
- Receive an SEO score that accounts for various website factors including meta-information, page quality, link structure, and more.
- Understand the specific SEO issues with your meta information such as metatitles/descriptions, meta tags, and invalid or incorrect domain names or page URLs.
- Identify areas for improvement regarding your page speed and quality (related to text, duplicate content, responsive design, and alt attributes for content).
- Understand how your page and link structure can be improved by getting data about your headers, internal links, and incorrect anchor text.
11. Check My Links
Check My Links is an off-page SEO tool that helps you monitor your backlink performance. The Google Chrome extension helps ensure your links on both external and internal web pages work.
For instance, if you were to search a term on Wikipedia, Check My Links would be able to tell you how many links that Wikipedia page has in total and how many of those links are broken.
This is helpful because you can make corrections to broken links immediately (or hopefully, before a page goes live). Check My Links is ideal for developers, content editors, web designers, and anyone else concerned with link performance.
- Check each link on your web pages and identify all invalid links.
- Quickly see the good links in green and the broken links in red.
- Copy all of your bad links to your clipboard in one click.
BROWSEO is essentially a technical SEO tool, although it also gives you quick insights into the number of backlinks on a page.
BROWSEO allows you to review your web page in a limited format so you can analyze its UX and content as well as gain insight into its SEO.
Once you input the URL, the output will hone in on your HTML so you’re able to understand the page’s structure, optimized search terms, and other SEO-related factors.
- See the number of words on the page. Find the sweet spot for copy length on your web pages.
- Determine the number of internal and external links on your page. This allows you to see how your linking strategy is working on each page.
- See all of your meta information. Review title tags, alt text, and meta descriptions.
Paid SEO Tools
Next, let’s look at some paid SEO tools. (Note that some of these tools have free trial periods. Some also offer entirely free plans but with restrictions in terms of flexibility and customization.)
Price: $45 per month for the Starter plan; $800 monthly for professional, and $3,200 monthly for enterprise.
HubSpot’s Marketing Hub includes an SEO marketing software tool. With keyword research, on-page, and SEO reporting capabilities, it’s perfect for helping you build authority across your website.
Since this software is integrated with HubSpot landing pages, web pages, and blog posts, you’ll never miss an opportunity to optimize your content for traffic and conversions.
No matter if you’re creating your first content strategy or you’re an expert in all things SEO, HubSpot’s SEO Marketing Software gives you the tools and the confidence to rank in the SERP and report on your performance.
HubSpot’s marketing software doesn’t keep SEO in a silo. This tool works in conjunction with:
- Email. Send professional emails using your own branded designs.
- Marketing automation. Create dynamic campaigns for segmented audiences.
- Lead management. Track leads through each stage in your sales process.
Analytics. Review your campaign to identify success and opportunities for improvement.
Price: Seven-day trial for $7; $99 per month for Lite; $179 per month for Standard; $399 per month for Advanced; $999 per month for Agency.
Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO tool that provides features for keyword research, on-page and off-page analysis, technical SEO, and reporting.
This advanced SEO resource examines your website property and produces keyword, link, and ranking profiles to help you make better decisions on your content.
- A site explorer shows you the performance of specific web pages on your website.
- A content explorer allows you to search high-performing web pages under specific keywords and topics.
- A keywords explorer generates the monthly search volume and click-through rates of specific keywords.
- Site audits crawl specified verticals within your domain and reveal technical issues at the page level.
Price: $119.95 per month for Pro; $229.95 per month for Guru; $449.95 per month for Business.
Another all-in-one SEO platform, SEMrush is an elaborate dashboard that reports on the performance of domains as a whole and their specific pages. SEMrush offers numerous resources, one of which is the SEO Toolkit.
Toolkit allows you to track a website’s visibility improvement over time as well as identify which keywords it’s ranking for, what the page’s rank is for a keyword, the keyword’s monthly search volume, and more.
- Analyze backlinks from other websites to your site.
- Identify all keywords you need to successfully build an SEO strategy.
- See your competitors’ strategies. Identify the paid keywords or ad copy used in the PPC ads of your competition.
- See how you can increase your organic traffic by optimizing your content.
Price: 10-day free trial; $29 per month.
Sometimes you don’t need an SEO tool with all the bells and whistles if you only need to do keyword research. KWFinder is a great platform that fills the gap between SEO work and copywriting. You’ll find keywords that aren’t too difficult to rank for but still carry the potential to bring in traffic.
What makes KWFinder unique is how seamlessly it shifts between languages and regions so that you can serve your audience no matter where in the world they are.
- Find long-tail keywords that give you more opportunities to acquire traffic.
- See how your competitors’ keyword strategies compare to your own, plus find more keyword opportunities.
- Analyze competition in the SERP to understand what elements readers are looking for on your pages.
- See what searchers are looking for locally and appeal to local markets for more niche traffic.
Price: Free 5-day trial; $29 per month for Standard; $79 per month for Standard; $129 per month for Agency.
GrowthBar is an advanced keyword research tool. It also offers some on-page and off-page features and an AI blog writing tool.
The Chrome extension can help you perform keyword research, competitive analysis, and track SEO rankings.
With the GrowthBar, access data points about any website directly from the search engine results page. This allows you to assess your competitors’ performance and view the growth channels, keywords, backlinks, and ads that are working for them.
- See which paid and organic keywords are driving the most traffic for your website and get a list of the most authoritative backlinks pointing to your site.
- Get your Keyword Difficulty Score. Assess how hard it would be to rank for a particular keyword based on the strength of the domain authorities ranking on page one.
- Run Facebook Ads. Get a visual of what they look like from a search engine’s perspective.
- Get a list of related keywords you might want to rank for along with their search volume and CPCs.
Price: Free 14-day trial; $79.99 per month for Pro; $199.99 per month for Premium.
Woorank is primarily a keyword research tool, although it also offers site crawls for technical SEO and information on your backlink performance against competitors.
Woorank’s in-depth site analysis helps marketers reveal opportunities for optimization and improvement. This analysis takes into account the performance of existing SEO initiatives, social media, usability, and more.
Each report is divided into sections to help you easily analyze your site and identify targets for optimization. Here are a few features of the report:
- A marketing checklist. Review common marketing tasks that you can complete as part of your SEO strategy execution.
- SEO analysis. Compare your SEO metrics to your goals.
- Mobile analysis. Decide which mobile optimization tactics to employ based on the mobile data.
- Social insight. See how social media is playing a part in your traffic and SEO goals.
Price: Free 30-day trial; $24 per month for Starter; $124 per month for Group; $299 per month for Professional; $999+ for Custom.
BuzzStream is an advanced off-page SEO tool. Not only does it provide a detailed analysis of your ongoing backlink performance, but you can also use it to plan and implement a backlink acquisition strategy.
Although backlinks to your website are critical to ranking well on Google, the outreach you do while link building can feel a lot like cold calling. BuzzStream makes it easy to research the appropriate people, come up with effective emails, and track who’s accepted each link request.
- Identify candidates for outreach. Find them based on their industry and how engaged they are across various social networks.
- Identify candidates for backlinks. These are individuals who will likely be receptive to your backlink request for other reasons that are unique to your business’s niche.
8. Moz Pro
Price: Free 30-day trial; $99 per month for Standard; $149 per month for Medium; $249 per month for Large; $599/month for Premium.
The Moz Pro subscription serves as an all-in-one SEO tool for increasing the search ranking of your business. Everything from keyword research and organic rank tracking to technical audits, on-page optimization, and link-building opportunities can be found in Moz.
You can use Moz to identify opportunities, track growth, build reports, and optimize your efforts across all aspects of your SEO strategy.
- Use a website crawler that analyzes up to 3,000 links on a given URL.
- Get out-of-the-box SEO reports and enables you to build your own.
- See duplicate content and redirects that could be influencing your SEO performance.
Price: 30-day free trial; $14.90 per month for Webmaster; $24.90 per month for Advanced; $49.90 per month for Pro; $99.90 per month for Agency; and $153.90 per month for Agency XL.
The best way to understand the performance of your off-page SEO is by having a good overview of your backlinks. Linkody is an off-page SEO tool that allows you to discover, track, analyze, and disavow backlinks all from an easy-to-use interface.
Aside from that, the tool checks your links 24/7 and informs you of any changes so you can take immediate action in case a link is lost or broken.
- “Spy” on your competitors’ backlinks. Simply enter the URL of your competitor and let the tool pull all the links and metrics. The information returned will help you discover niche-relevant, high-quality backlink opportunities for your brand.
- See your most important metrics when it comes to backlink tracking, such as the ‘rel’ attribute, Google indexation status, Domain Authority, Spam Score, Alexa rank, and more.
- Download reports that can be shared with your team and/or clients to get a better idea of your backlink distribution and link-building progress.
Price: Free or €149 per year.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider is an advanced technical SEO tool. It crawls your entire site and condenses all the relevant information into exportable reports.
Designed specifically for the SEO-minded, this program crawls the websites you specify, examining the URLs for common SEO issues.
This program expedites an otherwise time-consuming process — especially for larger websites. It could take hours or days to manually evaluate the same URLs.
You can use the tool to identify all kinds of technical SEO issues including those related to site structure, security, speed, and metadata. Plus, you can use it to generate important technical SEO files for your site such as XML sitemaps.
- Screaming Frog includes an intuitive Java program with easy-to-navigate tabs.
- Easily export to Excel to further analyze your SEO data.
Price: $249 one-time payment for life-time plan; $99 per month for one website; or $899 per month for an Agency that can be used on 10+ websites.
Remove’em is an off-page SEO tool that helps you identify and remove backlinks to your site that may be harmful to your organic search rankings.
If you’re buying a website domain that has been used in the past, or you’re rebuilding a poor SEO strategy, you may discover some problematic backlinks while conducting your audit.
Artificial or unnatural links have the potential to seriously hurt your search ranking. Remove’em helps get rid of those links.
- Scan your backlink profile. Discover a list of contact information for the links and domains you’ll need to reach out to for removal.
- Export a list of backlinks. If you wish, you can disavow backlinks by telling Google not to take these “bad” links into account when crawling your site.
Price: $99 per month for a monthly plan; $79 per month for an annual plan; $199 per month for the Expert plan.
AnswerThePublic is an in-depth keyword research tool that helps you find keywords to use on your site and provides inspiration for your on-page content.
The search listening and keyword tool listens to autocomplete data from Google and other search engines. The program will then provide you with a list of phrases and questions that people are searching for around your keyword.
This allows you to tailor your website to your audience and increase traffic.
- See when people are talking about your most relevant keywords.
- Understand keyword research behavior among your target audience and customers.
- View the keywords and phrases that your audience is researching in real-time.
- Discover new content ideas based on relevant keyword research.
13. Keyword Hero
Price: 14-day trial for any plan; free for Little Hero; $9 per month for Big Hero; $49 per month for Giant Hero; and $149 per month for Ultimate Hero.
Keyword Hero is a keyword research and SEO reporting tool. If you’re wondering exactly which keywords are attracting visitors to your site, it’s worth a look.
Keyword Hero pairs your visitors’ sessions with the keywords they used to land on your page, all within your Google Analytics account. In other words, this tool gives you an understanding of the search intent of your organic traffic.
- Analyze organic traffic and conversions. Uncover the success you receive from your intended keywords.
- Identify brand versus non-brand search traffic.
- Optimize your position in the SERPs. Optimize your website for specific target keywords.
- See query details. Understand whether your visitors used informational versus transactional queries to find your website.
Price: $39 per month for Basic; $69 per month for Professional; $129 per month for Unlimited.
SpyFu is a competitor keyword research tool for both Google Ads and organic search. In addition to keyword research, SpyFu helps with PPC competitive research, SEO competitive research, and the creation of custom lists and domains.
The tool helps you drive traffic to your Google Ads campaigns and website, monitor both paid and organic rankings, and obtain accurate contact information for leads.
- Download a competitor’s PPC keywords. Use this insight to develop more competitive PPC strategies that can compete in the ad space.
- Download a competitor’s SEO keywords. Use this insight to develop more competitive organic keyword strategies that can compete in the SERP.
- Review ranking trends. Analyze how a page or website ranks for a specific keyword over time.
- Discover keyword ideas. Get keyword advice for your Google Ads to increase the chances of conversion.
Price: Pay as you go (starting at $5); $19 per month for small business plans; $49 per month for a professional plan ; $179 per month for an unlimited plan.
Seomater is a technical SEO tool for crawling and auditing your website.
Once the tool crawls your site, you’ll receive an SEO report that explains your website’s various SEO-related elements. That includes internal and external links, backlinks, page quality and speed, social media, organic presence, and more.
Your analysis will also come with tips on how you can improve each of these SEO elements. In addition, you can:
- Use the SEO Monitoring Alerts feature. Your website will be automatically crawled and you’ll get an immediate notification if something is problematic in terms of SEO.
- Get detailed reports. Find insights about your on-page and off-page SEO elements.
- Use the Domain Comparison tool. Compare two competitors’ websites to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their SEO (such as broken links, content quality, HTML tags, and more).
Price: $139 per month for Basic; $319 per month for Standard; $449 per month for Pro; or contact for Enterprise.
ContentKing is a technical SEO and SEO reporting combination tool. The real-time SEO auditing and content tracking tool monitors your website 24/7 so any issues related to SEO don’t go unnoticed.
The tool is cloud-based, meaning there’s no installation required and your data and reports are available whenever and wherever you need them.
- Improve your SEO. Use ContentKing’s 24/7 website audits to gain insight into your SEO and receive tasks that will help you optimize your web pages.
- Get alerts. Get notified whenever something on your website is broken or is no longer well-optimized so you can efficiently fix the issue.
- Track changes. Follow the history of all your content changes on your site (such as changes on individual web pages and changes in robots.txt) and search the history of your changes.
- Visualize data. See real-time dashboards and reports.
17. SE Ranking
Price: $39.00 per month for Essential; $89.00 per month for Pro; or $189.00 per month for Business.
SE Ranking is an all-in-one SEO platform that analyzes website health and performance, keyword rankings, and traffic.
SE Ranking also provides insights into your competitors, allowing you to better understand the SEO landscape and adjust your marketing strategy. You can also build custom SEO reports with branding and personalization options.
- Monitor your and your competitors’ keyword positions and provide accurate keyword rank analysis, evaluate SEO potential, and show historical data changes.
- Evaluate all your website pages to create an in-depth report of website tech and performance errors with actionable tips on how to resolve them.
- Scope your competitors’ website traffic dynamics, keyword rankings, and other data in organic and paid searches.
- Analyze any website and create a complete report of the backlink profile with dynamics of new and lost site links and referring domains, anchor text distribution, and pages linked out to the most.
Making the Most of SEO Tools
Now that you’ve learned about some of the best free and paid SEO tools, it’s time to see what works with your current tech stack. Determine which option will help you achieve your SEO goals and get started optimizing your content.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Comparing Credibility of Custom Chatbots & Live Chat
Addressing customer issues quickly is not merely a strategy to distinguish your brand; it’s an imperative for survival in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace.
Customer frustration can lead to customer churn. That’s precisely why organizations employ various support methods to ensure clients receive timely and adequate assistance whenever they require it.
Nevertheless, selecting the most suitable support channel isn’t always straightforward. Support teams often grapple with the choice between live chat and chatbots.
The automation landscape has transformed how businesses engage with customers, elevating chatbots as a widely embraced support solution. As more companies embrace technology to enhance their customer service, the debate over the credibility of chatbots versus live chat support has gained prominence.
However, customizable chatbot continue to offer a broader scope for personalization and creating their own chatbots.
In this article, we will delve into the world of customer support, exploring the advantages and disadvantages of both chatbots and live chat and how they can influence customer trust. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of which option may be the best fit for your business.
The Rise of Chatbots
Chatbots have become increasingly prevalent in customer support due to their ability to provide instant responses and cost-effective solutions. These automated systems use artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to engage with customers in real-time, making them a valuable resource for businesses looking to streamline their customer service operations.
Advantages of Chatbots
One of the most significant advantages of custom chatbots is their round-the-clock availability. They can respond to customer inquiries at any time, ensuring that customers receive support even outside regular business hours.
Custom Chatbots provide consistent responses to frequently asked questions, eliminating the risk of human error or inconsistency in service quality.
Implementing chatbots can reduce operational costs by automating routine inquiries and allowing human agents to focus on more complex issues.
Chatbots can handle multiple customer interactions simultaneously, making them highly scalable as your business grows.
Disadvantages of Chatbots
Chatbots may struggle to understand complex or nuanced inquiries, leading to frustration for customers seeking detailed information or support.
Lack of Empathy
Chatbots lack the emotional intelligence and empathy that human agents can provide, making them less suitable for handling sensitive or emotionally charged issues.
Initial Setup Costs
Developing and implementing chatbot technology can be costly, especially for small businesses.
The Role of Live Chat Support
Live chat support, on the other hand, involves real human agents who engage with customers in real-time through text-based conversations. While it may not offer the same level of automation as custom chatbots, live chat support excels in areas where human interaction and empathy are crucial.
Advantages of Live Chat
Live chat support provides a personal touch that chatbots cannot replicate. Human agents can empathize with customers, building a stronger emotional connection.
For inquiries that require a nuanced understanding or involve complex problem-solving, human agents are better equipped to provide in-depth assistance.
Customers often trust human agents more readily, especially when dealing with sensitive matters or making important decisions.
Human agents can adapt to various customer personalities and communication styles, ensuring a positive experience for diverse customers.
Disadvantages of Live Chat
Live chat support operates within specified business hours, which may not align with all customer needs, potentially leading to frustration.
The speed of response in live chat support can vary depending on agent availability and workload, leading to potential delays in customer assistance.
Maintaining a live chat support team with trained agents can be expensive, especially for smaller businesses strategically.
Building Customer Trust: The Credibility Factor
When it comes to building customer trust, credibility is paramount. Customers want to feel that they are dealing with a reliable and knowledgeable source. Both customziable chatbots and live chat support can contribute to credibility, but their effectiveness varies in different contexts.
Building Trust with Chatbots
Chatbots can build trust in various ways:
Chatbots provide consistent responses, ensuring that customers receive accurate information every time they interact with them.
Chatbots offer instant responses, which can convey a sense of efficiency and attentiveness.
Chatbots can assure customers of their data security through automated privacy policies and compliance statements.
However, custom chatbots may face credibility challenges when dealing with complex issues or highly emotional situations. In such cases, the lack of human empathy and understanding can hinder trust-building efforts.
Building Trust with Live Chat Support
Live chat support, with its human touch, excels at building trust in several ways:
Human agents can show empathy by actively listening to customers’ concerns and providing emotional support.
Live chat agents can tailor solutions to individual customer needs, demonstrating a commitment to solving their problems.
Human agents can adapt to changing customer requirements, ensuring a personalized and satisfying experience.
However, live chat support’s limitations, such as availability and potential response times, can sometimes hinder trust-building efforts, especially when customers require immediate assistance.
Finding the Right Balance
The choice between custom chatbots and live chat support is not always binary. Many businesses find success by integrating both options strategically:
Use chatbots for initial inquiries, providing quick responses, and gathering essential information. This frees up human agents to handle more complex cases.
Escalation to Live Chat
Implement a seamless escalation process from custom chatbots to live chat support when customer inquiries require a higher level of expertise or personal interaction.
Regularly analyze customer interactions and feedback to refine your custom chatbot’s responses and improve the overall support experience.
In the quest to build customer trust, both chatbots and live chat support have their roles to play. Customizable Chatbots offer efficiency, consistency, and round-the-clock availability, while live chat support provides the human touch, empathy, and adaptability. The key is to strike the right balance, leveraging the strengths of each to create a credible and trustworthy customer support experience. By understanding the unique advantages and disadvantages of both options, businesses can make informed decisions to enhance customer trust and satisfaction in the digital era.
The Rise in Retail Media Networks
As LL Cool J might say, “Don’t call it a comeback. It’s been here for years.”
Paid advertising is alive and growing faster in different forms than any other marketing method.
Magna, a media research firm, and GroupM, a media agency, wrapped the year with their ad industry predictions – expect big growth for digital advertising in 2024, especially with the pending US presidential political season.
But the bigger, more unexpected news comes from the rise in retail media networks – a relative newcomer in the industry.
Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose explain how these trends could affect marketers or keep reading for his thoughts:
GroupM expects digital advertising revenue in 2023 to conclude with a 5.8% or $889 billion increase – excluding political advertising. Magna believes ad revenue will tick up 5.5% this year and jump 7.2% in 2024. GroupM and Zenith say 2024 will see a more modest 4.8% growth.
Robert says that the feeling of an ad slump and other predictions of advertising’s demise in the modern economy don’t seem to be coming to pass, as paid advertising not only survived 2023 but will thrive in 2024.
What’s a retail media network?
On to the bigger news – the rise of retail media networks. Retail media networks, the smallest segment in these agencies’ and research firms’ evaluation, will be one of the fastest-growing and truly important digital advertising formats in 2024.
GroupM suggests the $119 billion expected to be spent in the networks this year and should grow by a whopping 8.3% in the coming year. Magna estimates $124 billion in ad revenue from retail media networks this year.
“Think about this for a moment. Retail media is now almost a quarter of the total spent on search advertising outside of China,” Robert points out.
You’re not alone if you aren’t familiar with retail media networks. A familiar vernacular in the B2C world, especially the consumer-packaged goods industry, retail media networks are an advertising segment you should now pay attention to.
Retail media networks are advertising platforms within the retailer’s network. It’s search advertising on retailers’ online stores. So, for example, if you spend money to advertise against product keywords on Amazon, Walmart, or Instacart, you use a retail media network.
But these ad-buying networks also exist on other digital media properties, from mini-sites to videos to content marketing hubs. They also exist on location through interactive kiosks and in-store screens. New formats are rising every day.
Retail media networks make sense. Retailers take advantage of their knowledge of customers, where and why they shop, and present offers and content relevant to their interests. The retailer uses their content as a media company would, knowing their customers trust them to provide valuable information.
Think about these 2 things in 2024
That brings Robert to two things he wants you to consider for 2024 and beyond. The first is a question: Why should you consider retail media networks for your products or services?
Advertising works because it connects to the idea of a brand. Retail media networks work deep into the buyer’s journey. They use the consumer’s presence in a store (online or brick-and-mortar) to cross-sell merchandise or become the chosen provider.
For example, Robert might advertise his Content Marketing Strategy book on Amazon’s retail network because he knows his customers seek business books. When they search for “content marketing,” his book would appear first.
However, retail media networks also work well because they create a brand halo effect. Robert might buy an ad for his book in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal because he knows their readers view those media outlets as reputable sources of information. He gains some trust by connecting his book to their media properties.
Smart marketing teams will recognize the power of the halo effect and create brand-level experiences on retail media networks. They will do so not because they seek an immediate customer but because they can connect their brand content experience to a trusted media network like Amazon, Nordstrom, eBay, etc.
The second thing Robert wants you to think about relates to the B2B opportunity. More retail media network opportunities for B2B brands are coming.
You can already buy into content syndication networks such as Netline, Business2Community, and others. But given the astronomical growth, for example, of Amazon’s B2B marketplace ($35 billion in 2023), Robert expects a similar trend of retail media networks to emerge on these types of platforms.
“If I were Adobe, Microsoft, Salesforce, HubSpot, or any brand with big content platforms, I’d look to monetize them by selling paid sponsorship of content (as advertising or sponsored content) on them,” Robert says.
As you think about creative ways to use your paid advertising spend, consider the retail media networks in 2024.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
AI driving an exponential increase in marketing technology solutions
The martech landscape is expanding and AI is the prime driving force. That’s the topline news from the “Martech 2024” report released today. And, while that will get the headline, the report contains much more.
Since the release of the most recent Martech Landscape in May 2023, 2,042 new marketing technology tools have surfaced, bringing the total to 13,080 — an 18.5% increase. Of those, 1,498 (73%) were AI-based.
“But where did it land?” said Frans Riemersma of Martech Tribe during a joint video conference call with Scott Brinker of ChiefMartec and HubSpot. “And the usual suspect, of course, is content. But the truth is you can build an empire with all the genAI that has been surfacing — and by an empire, I mean, of course, a business.”
Content tools accounted for 34% of all the new AI tools, far ahead of video, the second-place category, which had only 4.85%. U.S. companies were responsible for 61% of these tools — not surprising given that most of the generative AI dynamos, like OpenAI, are based here. Next up was the U.K. at 5.7%, but third place was a big surprise: Iceland — with a population of 373,000 — launched 4.6% of all AI martech tools. That’s significantly ahead of fourth place India (3.5%), whose population is 1.4 billion and which has a significant tech industry.
Dig deeper: 3 ways email marketers should actually use AI
The global development of these tools shows the desire for solutions that natively understand the place they are being used.
“These regional products in their particular country…they’re fantastic,” said Brinker. “They’re loved, and part of it is because they understand the culture, they’ve got the right thing in the language, the support is in that language.”
Now that we’ve looked at the headline stuff, let’s take a deep dive into the fascinating body of the report.
The report: A deeper dive
Marketing technology “is a study in contradictions,” according to Brinker and Riemersma.
In the new report they embrace these contradictions, telling readers that, while they support “discipline and fiscal responsibility” in martech management, failure to innovate might mean “missing out on opportunities for competitive advantage.” By all means, edit your stack meticulously to ensure it meets business value use cases — but sure, spend 5-10% of your time playing with “cool” new tools that don’t yet have a use case. That seems like a lot of time.
Similarly, while you mustn’t be “carried away” by new technology hype cycles, you mustn’t ignore them either. You need to make “deliberate choices” in the realm of technological change, but be agile about implementing them. Be excited by martech innovation, in other words, but be sensible about it.
The growing landscape
Consolidation for the martech space is not in sight, Brinker and Riemersma say. Despite many mergers and acquisitions, and a steadily increasing number of bankruptcies and dissolutions, the exponentially increasing launch of new start-ups powers continuing growth.
It should be observed, of course, that this is almost entirely a cloud-based, subscription-based commercial space. To launch a martech start-up doesn’t require manufacturing, storage and distribution capabilities, or necessarily a workforce; it just requires uploading an app to the cloud. That is surely one reason new start-ups appear at such a startling rate.
Dig deeper: AI ad spending has skyrocketed this year
As the authors admit, “(i)f we measure by revenue and/or install base, the graph of all martech companies is a ‘long tail’ distribution.” What’s more, focus on the 200 or so leading companies in the space and consolidation can certainly be seen.
Long-tail tools are certainly not under-utilized, however. Based on a survey of over 1,000 real-world stacks, the report finds long-tail tools constitute about half of the solutions portfolios — a proportion that has remained fairly consistent since 2017. The authors see long-tail adoption where users perceive feature gaps — or subpar feature performance — in their core solutions.
Composability and aggregation
The other two trends covered in detail in the report are composability and aggregation. In brief, a composable view of a martech stack means seeing it as a collection of features and functions rather than a collection of software products. A composable “architecture” is one where apps, workflows, customer experiences, etc., are developed using features of multiple products to serve a specific use case.
Indeed, some martech vendors are now describing their own offerings as composable, meaning that their proprietary features are designed to be used in tandem with third-party solutions that integrate with them. This is an evolution of the core-suite-plus-app-marketplace framework.
That framework is what Brinker and Riemersma refer to as “vertical aggregation.” “Horizontal aggregation,” they write, is “a newer model” where aggregation of software is seen not around certain business functions (marketing, sales, etc.) but around a layer of the tech stack. An obvious example is the data layer, fed from numerous sources and consumed by a range of applications. They correctly observe that this has been an important trend over the past year.
Build it yourself
Finally, and consistent with Brinker’s long-time advocacy for the citizen developer, the report detects a nascent trend towards teams creating their own software — a trend that will doubtless be accelerated by support from AI.
So far, the apps that are being created internally may be no more than “simple workflows and automations.” But come the day that app development is so democratized that it will be available to a wide range of users, the software will be a “reflection of the way they want their company to operate and the experiences they want to deliver to customers. This will be a powerful dimension for competitive advantage.”
Constantine von Hoffman contributed to this report.
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